Fernando Alonso has again suggested that next year's F1 regulations will play a key role in determining the length of his career in the top flight.
The Spaniard is one of only four drivers on the 2016 grid – alongside McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa and current Scuderia pilot Kimi Raikkonen - to have raced in each of the most recent V10, V8 and V6 Hybrid engine eras, and openly admits that the current specification of F1 pales in comparison to its predecessors.
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As a result, and with no sign of a return to more 'extreme' regulations with the changes scheduled for 2017, Alonso makes no secret of the fact that, if he is not enjoying his sport, he will look elsewhere for the challenge that he craves.
“I've said some times already that, next year, I finish my contract with McLaren, so I will have to make a decision if I am to continue in F1 or not,” he confirmed, “I think, in the last couple of years, in this turbo engine era, the cars are a little bit different to drive. I don't say if it is better or worse – everyone will have his opinion – but I have been lucky to drive 2003 cars, 2004, '05… Even until 2009, the cars were, in my opinion, more extreme, more 'F1' cars, so now, when I see GP2 running three seconds away in FP1, it feels a little bit sad.”
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Although a new raft of regulation changes are planned for 2017, with a lot of attention falling on the decision to allow a return to wider tyres. Parallel alterations to the dimensions and placement of the front and rear wings, and tweaks to the bargeboard rules, are all designed to achieve the objective of improving lap times by four to five seconds, but Alonso is concerned that, with the minimum weight of the car and driver also increasing, there will be little discernible difference in how it feels to drive.
“The [current] cars are heavy, [have] no grip, we save fuel, we save tyres, we save everything from lap one, so it's a bit against the instinct of the driver - and next year is a big question mark,” the double world champion opined, “I think, with the new regs, everything will change a little bit. If the cars are fun to drive, exciting to drive, I will probably stay longer and drive more years in F1 but, if the cars are still giving me the feeling I have had in the last couple of years, probably I will stop.”
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Alonso's mood will not have been helped by spending the past 18 months saddled with a lacklustre McLaren-Honda combination, but he insists that the decision about his future would be the same whether he was at the front of the grid or the back.
“It is not related to whether you are competitive or not, if you are out in Q1 or winning the world championship, just whether you are enjoying driving the cars or not,” he stressed, “Right now, in my opinion, the cars are not enjoyable – but probably because I drove the older cars. If you arrived in F1 now, the cars are fun and very fast to drive - just not for me any more.”
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